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Saudi Arabia moves closer to $1bn Barrick Pakistan deal

18th April 2024

By: Bloomberg

  

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Saudi Arabia is moving closer to a potential deal to acquire a minority stake in a Pakistan mine controlled by Barrick Gold, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Manara Minerals Investment, backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, plans to invest at least $1-billion in the Reko Diq copper and gold mining project, the people said. It could announce that it’s reached a preliminary agreement on terms of a transaction as soon as the next few weeks, according to the people.

The Saudi company may increase its investment over time in the mine, which is part-owned by the Pakistan government. Deliberations are ongoing, and talks could still fall apart or be delayed. A representative for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is a major shareholder in Manara, declined to comment. A spokesperson for Barrick didn’t respond to queries.

Saudi Arabia is interested to invest in multiple sectors including metals and mining, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said in an interview Wednesday. A few “of those projects are now pretty close, so I do think we should hear some announcements coming through,” Aurangzeb said.

A potential deal would come after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif this month. Pakistan presented a wide range of investment opportunities including solar, mining, hydropower and technology to a visiting Saudi delegation this week, with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan saying the Gulf kingdom plans to move ahead with the opportunities.

The Reko Diq project, in the Balochistan region bordering Afghanistan and Iran, is targeted to begin production in 2028. Barrick owns 50% of the project, with Pakistan’s federal government holding a 25% stake and the Balochistan regional government owning the rest.

Saudi Arabia has been in talks with Pakistan to buy part of the government’s stake in Reko Diq, Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said in a November interview. The world’s second-largest gold producer would support any decision by the government with the Saudis, while Barrick won’t dilute its equity in the project, Bristow has said.

Edited by Bloomberg

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